Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dancing Eves are Fun!

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Decking the Halls

Photos of our home decorated for the winter holidays.

You Lied to Me!

So, apparently I am a liar.

This year, Jensen has become obsessed with the holidays. And when I say holidays, I mean presents. For a child that is usually very giving and non-materialistic, he just won’t leave the idea alone. It is puzzling to me.

While I was reading an article today, Jensen came up and asked me a question. I was focused on the article so I said, “wait a minute,” so I could finish the article and then focus my attention on him. When I finished the article he said that he was going to open a present from under the tree. I told him that he needed to wait a few more days, and then we would open the gifts.

Jensen stopped dead in his tracks and glared at me.

Jensen - “You lied to me! You told me that I could open a present.”
Me - “No, I didn’t. It isn’t time yet.”
Jensen – “You told me I could open one ‘in a minute.’”

With a smile, I had to explain to him that I meant that I would be able to listen to his question in a minute, not that he’d be able to open a gift. He wasn’t pleased with my answer and walked away sulking, assured that I had lied to him.

Note to self – remember that four year olds are in a literal phase of development.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thanksgiving Recap

For the past twenty years or so my family has been spending Thanksgiving in the Smokey Mountains. When we started the tradition, my family shared a small two bedroom cabin with some family friends. We have now grown from four adults and six young children sharing a tiny cabin, to 20+ people splitting two large, luxury cabins, fifteen of which are now part of my extended family (up from the original six). It isn't often that we are all able to get together, so we all try our hardest to make it to the mountains for Thanksgiving.

This year, my sisters, their significant others, my dad, Justin and I all hiked the 11 miles round trip to the top of Mount LeConte, an elevation of 6,593'. It was an awesome hike with breathtaking views. The last time we did that hike Justin and I were seniors in high school and he just about slid off the mountain. We tried looking for the little pine tree that saved him twelve years ago, but by now, that sapling would be a full-fledged tree, and they all sort of look the same now. I knew that the tree was still there, poised to save another novice hiker silly enough to hike in loafers on an icy day. NOTE-Justin is no longer a novice hiker...this year he even sponsored a dead reckoning trip over a mountain ridge and taught us all something about orienteering (notice the smile on Jolie's face).

I thought I'd share some photos from this year's adventure. I found some prints from twelve years ago and will try to get them scanned so I can share them as well. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Holidays – A Rant

Happy Holidays! What is wrong with saying “Happy Holidays” to someone? This isn’t the first year that I have heard people complain about being told “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” during the holiday season. I guess I just don’t understand why “Happy Holidays” is offensive to people. Last time I checked, the United States was NOT a Christian country, but instead a melting pot, with people who come from many different religious, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds.

Christmas is not the only winter holiday that is celebrated in the United States. Many of the world's religions have a winter festival (most of which focus on light during a time of darkness). We are lucky to live in a country where we are able to freely practice the religion of our choosing. Here are just a few additional winter festivals that are celebrated across the United States and around the world: Hanukkah (Jewish); Kwanzaa (African American); Solstice; Yule; Diwali (Hindu); Yalda (Persian)…the list goes on and on.

To me, generally saying "happy holidays" to someone during this season of multiple holidays seems appropriate. The statement validates that there are different holidays occurring during this time of year, and that everyone's religious holiday has importance and should be respected.

Respect…wouldn’t that fall under the Golden Rule? Treating others as you would want to be treated? Respecting others as you would want to be respected?

During this time of Peace and Joy, when supposed Love and Kindness abound, maybe we should consider adding Respect to our holiday list…and be sure to check it twice.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Homemade Dough for Playing

I’ve tried several recipes for homemade play dough. Some were coarse, some were sticky, and some were downright dry. I seemed to strike out every time I tried to make a copycat of the ever popular Play-Doh. That all changed with a recipe I received from a close homeschooling friend the other day, who told me the recipe was tried and true.

I can now agree that this recipe is wonderful. No sticky hands, no coarse texture, no difficulty in manipulating. I have some very satisfied customers. This will be my go to play dough recipe in the future. The price is right (most ingredients are readily available around the house), the process is simple, and the kids can have whatever color tickles their fancy. Enjoy!

Play Dough Recipe

1 C flour
¼ C salt
2 T cream of tartar
1 C water
1 T oil
30 drops food coloring

Mix the dry ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Add the water, oil, and food coloring and heat over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly. As soon as the dough forms a ball, turn the dough out on the counter and knead for a minute or so. Store in an air-tight container.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dear Blog...

Oh, how I have neglected you over the past few months. I think of you often, debating in my head throughout the day what I should type on you to share with others as the day winds to a close. But, after a long day of thinking and brainstorming, cleaning and caring for children, learning and having fun, I have found it hard to sit and type as I used to. Dare I say my evenings have recently been spent reading, playing board games with the children, baking, watching movies with my husband, and yes, I am ashamed to say, even playing a video game or two.

I will try harder to include you in my daily routine. I truly enjoy sharing stories about my day, about life, and about how to make the world just a little bit better. I will do better. I promise. Thank you for being here, patiently waiting for my return. Again, I am sorry for neglecting you.



Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Donating to Locks of Love

After Jolie donated her hair to Locks of Love in May 2008, I decided that I would grow my hair out and make a donation as well.

Locks of Love is an organization that makes prosthetic wigs for children who have medical conditions in which they are unable to grow their own hair. The organization creates prosthetics with donated hair for children who are financially disadvantaged. The use of donated hair helps the organization provide quality prosthetics to needy children. Donated hair that does not meet the 10 inch requirement is sold to help cover manufacturing costs.

It has been over a year since I've had a haircut. In the Florida heat, all I have been able to do in recent months is to put my hair up in a bun or a ponytail because my hair is so heavy and thick. Leaving it down was just getting to be too much. I decided a few weeks ago that tt was time to take a big step and get my hair cut to donate, but I had to wait until after the Navy Day Ball so I could have my hair put up for the Ball.

Here are the before, during, and after photos.

I'm happy to be able to do a little something to help make a child smile. It will take some time to get used to my new "do," but I think it's going to grow on me.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Surfing in October

Apparently the weather has neglected to look at the calendar and realize that it's fall. Our temperatures have been in the upper 80s all week. In an effort to work with the weather rather than against it, we decided to spend Sunday afternoon at the beach. The boys went surfing, Jolie played in the sand, I sat under the umbrella and read. It was a wonderful trip all around.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Garden Update - Before & After

One benefit of living in Florida is the extended growing season. We are lucky that fairly mild winters make it possible for me to have a second planting...almost a second "garden."

Due to the heat of the summer, my garden started to slow in its production. The peppers remained the main staples that were able to brave and survive the heat. The volunteer watermelon did well, giving us four large watermelon. The tomatoes did fine too...that is until Lincoln broke into the garden and decided to romp through them, breaking many of the plants. We got one nice egg plant during the summer. The lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, potatoes and onions were a bust. Still operating on a Virginia planting cycle, I planted them too late into the season and they basically fried in the early heat wave we saw in May.

Below are photos of the garden at the close of summer -

Once the heat started to die down, I decided it was time to rip out the no longer producing plants and till under the overgrowth to prepare for my fall planting. I spent three hours one day pulling up plants, ripping out weeds, and tilling. Very therapeutic.

Here are some photos from my newly prepared-for-planting garden -

I have since planted three sections of green beans, with two types of lettuce and spinach in between. The broccoli and cauliflower that I started from seed have been transplanted next to my two sections of sweet potatoes. My egg plant decided to re-flower and currently has three fruit. The pepper plants (jalapeno, banana, bell, and cayenne) are still producing. I'm hoping to purchase a few tomato plants at the farmer's market this weekend, and will try to grow onions from seed again this fall. I am waiting for my garlic to arrive in the mail, and as soon as it does, I'll get it in the ground. The pumpkin plants that I started and transplanted, didn't make it. I think they got root bound before they were transplanted. I will miss having our own pie pumpkins this year, and am hoping that the farmer's market and/or our CSA will have some nice ones I can use to make pumpkin puree.

I am pleased with this year's garden. I am still working to learn the growing seasons down here. I figure as soon as I get everything figured out, it will be time to move again. I'm looking forward to seeing how this fall planting works out. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

2009-2010 Daily Schedule

As I think I've mentioned before, I work best on a general schedule. Without a schedule, I tend to be lost...time management goes out the window and I come to the end of the day feeling like I haven't gotten anything done.

My kids tend to have the same problem. Without some guidance, they would entrench themselves in one or two activities (primarily Legos and imaginary play) and disregard all other responsibilities (such as brushing one's teeth and changing out of their pajamas).

For both the kids and myself, I have come up with a guiding schedule to help us glide through the day. We have time to complete our responsibilities and still have time for some fun. The schedule is not set in stone, allowing for some flexibility.

How do you keep your family rolling along? Do you have a strict schedule, a guiding schedule, or do you just fly by the seat of your pants? I love hearing and learning about how other families structure (or don't structure) their let me know.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Butterscotch Pudding

Tonight I made homemade pudding for the first time. Butterscotch is my favorite pudding, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. WOW! is all I have to say about that. Yummy! Justin and I had some (still warm) tonight and it was wonderful. Making pudding from scratch takes a few extra minutes, but was well worth it. Here is the recipe I used-

3 cups (720 ml) whole (full fat) milk - (I used organic half 'n half)
3/4 cup (160 grams) dark brown sugar - (I used organic light brown sugar)
1/4 cup (30 grams) cornstarch (corn flour) - (non GMO, of course)
1/8 teaspoon salt - (I used sea salt)
4 large egg yolks - (I like free range)
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract - (organic and fair trade)
2 tablespoon (28 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces - (organic)

Garnish: Lightly sweetened whipped cream

In a large stainless steel (heatproof) bowl whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks. Whisk in 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the milk until you have a thick paste. Set aside while you heat the milk. Have ready a fine medium-sized strainer and bowl as you will need to strain the pudding after it is cooked.

First, rinse a medium-sized heavy saucepan with cold water and then shake out the excess water. Doing this step prevents the milk from scorching. Then pour the remaining 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) of milk into the saucepan and bring just to a boil. Gradually pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth. Transfer the pudding mixture to a clean large, heavy bottomed saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla extract. Pour through the strainer to remove any lumps that may have formed during cooking.

Pour into 4 bowls or wine glasses. The pudding can be served warm or if chilling, press plastic wrap onto the surface of the warm puddings to prevent a skin from forming. If you like the skin, simply leave the pudding uncovered until cooled, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The puddings can be made a day or two ahead of serving. Garnish each pudding with a large dollop of softly whipped cream.

Makes 4 servings.

Let me know if you have a favorite homemade pudding recipe. I'd like to try some others.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Weekly Menu Planning - August 31st

Mon. -Brown rice pilaf, apple sauce, bread and butter
Tues. - Mac & cheese, hot dogs (soy/meat), mixed veggies
Wed. - Creamy potato soup, bacon (Justin), broccoli
Thurs. - Tofu/tuna casserole, apple sauce, peas
Fri. - dinner with sisters
Sat. - dinner out with family
Sun. - Leftovers

Monday, August 24, 2009

Weekly Menu Planning - August 24th

Mon. – Eggplant parmigiana, penne noodles, tomato sauce, green beans
Tues. – Yellow rice, salsa, green olives (skipped last week)
Wed. – tacos (beef or bean), refried beans, Spanish rice, corn
Thurs. – tuna / tofu casseroles, peas, apple sauce
Fri. – bagel pizzas (cheese or pepperoni), salad
Sat. – Command Picnic…leftovers if we’re hungry
Sun. – Three bean vegetarian chili, corn bread (skipped last week again…we had dinner with our neighbors…I made mac & cheese, carrot soufflĂ©, leftover baked beans from the freezer and corn on the cob)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Black Bean Soup

Tonight we tried a new black bean soup recipe. We've had black bean soup before, but weren't really pleased with its flavor, so I decided to do some searching on Recipezaar and AllRecipes for black bean soup recipes. I usually sort my results according to ranking. I figure if others have tried the recipe and liked it, maybe we will as well.

One of the highest ranked black bean soup recipes on Recipezaar was TGIFriday's Black Bean soup, so we gave it a try.
It was definitely a keeper. The children who tried it liked it, which is success in my book.

We coupled the soup with some Corn Pudding. It wasn't quite the consistency I was hoping for. The corn casserole I usually make is more of a creamy corny corn bread type casserole. Justin, Jensen and I liked this version, but I think I'll keep looking for a corn casserole recipe that really wows us, but you may enjoy it.

Happy eating!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Weekly Menu Planning – August 17th

Mon. – yellow rice (add chicken for Justin), salsa, green beans
Tues. – Rotini alfredo, garlic bread, salad
Wed. – chicken/tofu casserole, apple sauce mixed veggies
Thurs. – Black bean soup, bread
Fri. – French bread pizza
Sat. – “meat” balls and rice (meat and vegetarian), bread, mixed veggies
Sun. – three bean vegetarian chili, corn bread (skipped it last week…had leftovers instead)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fun At the Farm

The kids and I took a trip to Illinois last month to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday with my extended family. Though the car trip was long, it was well worth the effort. Grandma lives on a farm in the middle of farm country. Transplant her farm up to Washington, and it would be my ideal final land…there is plenty of room for a large garden, a nice size pond, some timbered area, and planted fields that would make for great grazing area.

I always enjoyed my trips to the farm growing up and I feel somewhat of a connection to that place. My hubby always asks why I feel so attached to the farm, and I think I can finally say that no matter where we lived (I moved frequently as a child), my grandparent’s farm, and my other grandmother’s house “in town,” never changed. They were sort of like a constant in our ever-changing lives.

Now that I’m older, I feel even more of a connection to my grandmothers and their way of life, because in many ways, it is their “traditional” ways that I find myself yearning for. I am teaching myself to can vegetables; we are cooking most every meal from scratch; and trying to live as frugally as possible. I only wish I lived closer so I could glean more from my experienced grandmothers.

My kids thrived in the wide-open spaces, catching lightning bugs, picking up sticks for our bonfire, and running until they were nearly wiped out. Jolie asked if we could move up to the farm. I share her enthusiasm for the country…and cooler temperatures.

Here are some photos from our trip.